Royals Draw at Watford
Football, they say, is a funny old game, and they don`t come much funnier than the match between Reading and Watford at Vicarage Road this Saturday. Highlight - or lowlight - of the match was the awarding of a bizarre goal-that-never-was in Reading`s favour on the 13th minute of a game that included the Watford goalkeeper going off injured, Noel Hunt leaving the pitch, multiballs appearing and disappearing from the pitch and various other dubious decisions or lack of them.
Five minutes into the game Mart Poom, the Watford keeper, appeared to dislocate his shoulder after a collision with Kevin Doyle caused him to fall awkwardly. As both received treatment Noel Hunt took the chance to run down the tunnel, reappearing in time for a goal-kick by substitute Scott Loach who was on a league debut. Hunt, it later turned out, was playing whilst suffering with a stomach bug and took the chance for a quick visit to the toilet.
Loach`s kick found its way through midfield to the other end of the pitch where shouts for handball against Marcus Hahnemann were ignored as he came out of his area.
Reading could have gone ahead when Doyle`s cross entered the box, but Noel Hunt`s mistimed header went wide. Instead, they 'scored` their controversial goal five minutes later. Stephen Hunt`s corner came in to his brother who tried to bundle it into goal against Watford`s John Eustace. The ball went over the line wide of the goal, but Noel Hunt hooked it back in for Andre Bikey to head onto the crossbar. It was at this moment in time that linesman Nigel Bannister flagged. Thinking it was for a goal-kick the players were already heading back up the pitch, but after a few minutes of consultation, referee Stuart Attwell awarded Reading the goal. Incensed Watford players immediately surrounded the officials and both Will Hoskins and Jobi McAnuff were yellow-carded for their protest as the Watford crowd began to shout at the referee and bemused scorekeepers tried to work out which player had actually scored. Initially, it was awarded to Noel Hunt, but it later went down as a John Eustace own-goal.
Jimmy Kebe had a chance to score a more convincing goal two minutes later, as he went on a mazy run into the box and his shot forced a save from Loach, and Bikey forced another on the half-hour as he headed in a Stephen Hunt cross, but although they had the momentum, Reading failed to make another mark on the scoreboard in the first half.
At half-time, when officials realised their mistake, there was a suggestion that Reading should let Watford score to even the game, but this was clearly not the case as Reading came out with the same purpose as before.
Watford scored their first when Reading failed to clear from John-Joe O`Toole`s free-kick, Tommy Smith eventually hooking the loose ball in, levelling the score.
Four minutes after this Watford manager, Adie Boothroyd, was sent to the stands after remonstrating with the fourth official and the referee over a foul throw decision against Watford. This only served to rouse the Watford faithful and players, and on the 63rd minute O`Toole struck home again.
Reading continued to push forward and it appeared that they might have equalised just five minutes later when Hunt`s cross was headed into goal by Bikey, but the goal was disallowed, ostensibly for a push by the big man.
There then followed another discussion between linesman and referee seemingly over whether Bikey had already been booked. As this was going on, Watford`s multiple balls were being gathered up and the game proceeded with only two balls available, possibly because at one point several balls were on the pitch.
Royals' fans could be forgiven for thinking this would reduce the amount of time Reading had to avoid a loss.
Luckily Shane Long, who had come on for the ill Noel Hunt in the 54th minute, won Reading a penalty when he was brought down in the area and Stephen Hunt was able to fool Loach into going the wrong way with his equaliser.
Another penalty shout, when Armstrong was tripped in the box, looked as though it had been awarded four minutes inside injury time, but the decision went for a goal-kick.
By this time Reading fans thought the non-goal was not the blessing it had looked as many decisions went against them. Some felt they should have had penalties earlier for a push on Doyle and Long being blatantly pulled back by the shirt, the latter`s protest earning him a yellow card, but this was not to be and they had to be content with a point after one of the most unusual games ever seen.
So after many eventless 0-0 draws, a 2-2 draw at Watford turned out not to be the bore-fest that was predicted, but it still leaves Reading looking for that elusive away win.